JFHS Innovations

Innovation Logo

Free illustration: Gears, Bulb, Innovation, Technology - Free ...Educational Update:

across the Nation, Virginia, Bedford County, Jefferson Forest

Blogger, global medical scientist, robotics engineers, social media directors, international attorneys: What skill sets do these career workers need to be successful? Are America’s high schools preparing learners for these high-paying, globally-connected jobs? What about jobs that haven’t been invented yet--jobs on the market four years from now, ten years in the future? We must meet the needs of our learner’s future success without sacrificing the excellence embedded in tradition.

The following links share some insights into how the United States is personalizing learning to meet the needs of the learners while preparing them for an ever-changing future.  

Click here to access an Education Reimagined issue about innovations across the US

Click here to access an article on brain wave activity research (note the brain activity chart on p 1250)

Click here to access an article on innovative successes in Charlotte-Mecklenberg

Click here to access the article “Transformational Vision for Education in the US”

Click here to access the article “What’s Possible with Personalized Learning? An Overview of Personalized Learning for Schools, Families, and Communities”

Click here to access the article “Personalized Learning for Schools, Families & Communities”

Click here to access the article “When the Focus is on the Student Not the Class”

Click here to access the website XQ Super Schools

Click here to access the article "The Surprising Thing Google Learned about Its Employees--and What It Means for Today's Students"


VADOE logoVirginia Department of Education has been developing a plan to make Virginia high schools more responsive to the needs of Virginia’s current students. The state is considering adjusting accountability and credentialing requirements including 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, engaged citizenship, and critical thinking.

The first link The Virginia Department of Education provides resources in this link to promote understanding of  the “why” “what” and “how” of  reforms.  

Click here to access Virginia Department of Education--videos explaining revised standards of accreditation

Click here to access Virginia Department of Education--Profile of a High School Graduate

Click here to access reader-friendly version of revisions and profile

BCPS PL logoBedford County has also been working transforming instruction and personalizing  learning. Use the following links to learn more about our county's efforts.   

Click here to access BCPS - Empowering Learners

Click here to access BCPS Strategic Plan

Click here to access BCPS Innovation Journey Timeline


code wordle.pngOur vision for JF

Cavalier Learning Academies (9th and 10th) Students in the 9th and 10th grade will be assigned to houses in a student-centered learning environment. Within these small learning communities teachers will have autonomy over daily teaching schedule and grouping of students. Students will complete competency requirements (SOL, CTE Credentials) and participate in soft skill training (soft skills include creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, time management, communication) and career exploration. Teachers and students assigned to houses will share a large amount of common time which will allow the flexibility needed to address daily learning needs including, but not limited to, advisory, enrichment, and academic intervention.

Junior and Senior Year Cavaliers will have opportunities for the following learning experiences:  

  • Complete a series of AP and dual enrollment classes to obtain

  • Complete dual enrollment classes by attending Central Virginia Governor's School (Link), XLR8 STEM Academy (CVCC Lynchburg) (Link), or BSTC (Bedford) (Link).

  • Earn Industry or Workplace Credentials through BSTC or Career Technology Education (CTE) classes at JF.

  • Complete an Internship with a local business

JF’s Innovation Journey

For several years the JF’s administration and innovation team (made up of JF teachers and admin) have been researching and planning how to best serve our students. We began by researching what is currently being done in our area. We visited colleges and other high schools in the state. We also “visited” our own classrooms and interviewed students. We wanted their perspective on high school as they are our end users. We asked them what they thought worked and what did not. Our students pointed out some areas of concern: too much “busy work” or wasted time, the inability to move ahead or get extra help in certain content areas, the stress of assignments/assessments on the same day (lack of teacher collaboration), and lack of real world application. We applied for and received the Virginia Department of Education High School Program Innovation Planning Grant; we made plans for a pilot team within Jefferson Forest, and we joined with Central Virginia Community College to plan for a Early College Campus here at JF.

2016-17 Pilot

In 2016-17 we moved into our first year of pilot implementation. Tenth graders who requested Spanish III/Pre-AP Spanish, Health PE 10, English 10/Pre-AP 10, Chemistry/PreAP Chemistry/Biology were selected to participate. These 70 students had the same four teachers for a common time block during the day (periods 1-4). Teachers worked together to minimize obstacles of high school and maximize student learning. The pilot team utilized flexible and student-selected scheduling, frequent career exploration opportunities, soft-skill instruction and practice, as well as content instruction. All students on the pilot team were issued a Bedford County Chromebook.

JF applied for and received an additional $50,000 from the Virginia Department of Education High School Program Implementation  Grant to continue our innovation.  

2017-18 Early high school team

In the Fall of 2017 the pilot was expanded to include 9th and 10 grade students and encompass the full school day. The classes involved include English (Pre AP and Core), science (Pre AP Biology, Pre AP Chemistry, and Chemistry), World History II (Pre AP and Core), Personal Finance, Health/PE 9, Health/PE/Driver’s Ed 10, Spanish (II, III, Pre AP III), and math (Algebra II, PreAP Algebra II, Algebra/Trig).The students’ day includes scheduled sessions for content instruction as well as sessions for advisory, PBL (Project Based Learning) work, PLO (Personalized Learning Opportunities) when students work with teachers for extra help, work with other students, or work independently as needed. Teachers work together to plan projects, spread out assessments, and organize extended learning opportunities for students.  All JF 9th graders were issued a Bedford County Chromebooks, as were the 10th graders on the pilot team.

Also in the Fall of 2017, Early College Forest Campus became a reality at JF with 18 students entering for the 2017-2018 school year. Additionally, AP Capstone Seminar class was offered for the first year at JF, and 18 students enrolled. Students completing this class may take the AP Capstone Research class next year, and a new group of students will be welcomed into next year’s seminar class. Graduation 2019 will include our first AP Capstone graduates.

2018-19 JF Cavalier Learning AcademiesRed thumbprint, JF superimposed

Starting fall of 2018, 9th grade students will be assigned to houses in a student-centered learning environment. Students in these houses will be assigned a normal schedule with bell changes. Teachers assigned to houses may elect to allocate time differently based on learning activity and academic need for a single day or multiple days. Teachers within these small learning communities will have autonomy over daily teaching schedule and grouping of students. Students will complete competency requirements (SOL, CTE Credentials) and participate in soft skill training (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, time management, communication) and career exploration. Teachers will work collaboratively to create many cross- curricular assignments that have academic and real world relevance. Teachers and students assigned to houses will share a large amount of common time which will allow flexibility to address daily learning needs including, but not limited to, advisory, enrichment, and academic intervention. While all teams (all 9th graders) will cover the same course-related content, individual teams may choose to do so differently.

This year, as last year, all JF 9th graders will be issued Bedford County Chromebooks.

Students will be assigned to houses based on course selection. Students within a house will have common classes and common teachers for 3 to 4 class periods. Classes to fill other course requests will be taken outside of the house assignment. The following are examples of what courses might be contained within one house.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is this an online program?  No, content is delivered by a classroom teacher using a variety of formats including lecture, group work, guided practice, projects etc. Google Classroom is used throughout JF as a platform to assign and collect work.  

Will students have normal bell changes? Classes will be scheduled in 55 minute blocks with 6 minute class changes. Teachers within the academy will have the flexibility to use the time given within the block at their discretion based on learning needs (ex. Lab - 90 min block on lab days).

Should my child still take gym over the summer to accommodate taking an extra elective?  Yes, PE may or may not be incorporated into the academies. Academies will be set up based on student scheduling requests.

Will rising 9th graders receive chromebooks?  Yes, chromebooks will be assigned and can go home with the student.

Will all 9th graders be assigned to an Academy?  Yes - House assignments will be based on course request.  

Will the Academy be the same as Pilot (2016 - 2017) or Early High School Team (2017 - 2018)?

Unfortunately, no. We will be including those aspects that are beneficial to students and that can be scaled to the entire 9th grade. We are focusing on central concepts which include being student-centered and working on content mastery, career exploration, and soft skill training (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and self regulation).


What will instruction look like in the Academies?  Instruction will consist of lecture, lab, independent and group work, flipped classroom, and discussion which are the same as traditional classroom components.

What is the interaction with teacher?

These are not online classes. All students will be issued a Chromebook. Teachers are asked to use Google Classroom to make all assignments; this has more to do with turning in and keeping track of assignments than instruction.

Teachers will interact with students daily. Instruction will be provided in various ways (as is true now) including direct instruction, group work, independent work.

How will students be assessed in the Academy? Test, quizzes, labs, papers, projects, presentations. Preparation for test is the same as the traditional classroom.

How they are assigned to a task or problem?  This will be decided by the teacher as it would be in the traditional classroom.  

Are students allowed to progress at their own pace? How is this monitored?  

Unfortunately, we are not there yet.  Students are provided choice to support their academic need such as expansion, remediation, and personal interest.   

What type of students have participated in the Pilot Program (high, average, or below average)?  Are the students representative of the full student body at JF?

Core and Pre-AP students have participated in the Pilot and Early High School Team.  

Describe a day in the life of an academy student?  How is it different?

Teachers within the house have autonomy over daily teaching schedule and grouping of students. Teachers may adhere to the normal bell schedule (55 min and 6 min bell change) or adjust depending on academic need (lab, writing block, project, etc.).

At least one day a week academy teachers will offer student choice in the schedule. This choice day will allow for seminars of interest or need, expansion, remediation, soft skill training, career exploration opportunities, and time for group/individual project work.   

Traditional classrooms have no option but 55 min 6 min bell change.

How did students in the pilot do in comparison to non-pilot students on SOL tests?

Comparison of Pilot Students to Non Pilot student Year 1

(Only 2 SOL subjects and 70 students)

Pilot Chemistry 88%               Non- Pilot Chemistry 79%

Pilot Pre-AP Chemistry 97%  Non - Pilot Pre Ap Chemistry 100%

Pilot Biology 83%                   Non- Pilot Biology 76%

Data will be shared when we have results from Year 2 currently in progress.  

What were the lessons were learned in the first two years?  

We learned that all skills, including studying, what to do when you don’t already know, and time management, need explicit, direct instruction. We knew that students needed help with these skills; we learned that most students had no foundation at all with these skills and needed very basic instruction.

We learned that most students had a high level of learned-helplessness and that combating this is painful and requires patience (on everyone’s part--students, teachers, and parents).

We learned that support and additional preparation time for teachers is crucial.

We were reminded that SOL content describes minimal requirements and most students will benefit from opportunities to expand their knowledge and go deeper into content.

We also learned that students responded to our attention to the above lessons. Students became more effective more confident when speaking to adults (including administration), when giving presentations, and using email. They made more career-centered choices for 11th grade (more students choosing STEM Academy, Early College, BSTC than previously). Ultimately we realized that we had made them think, and even though they were moved out of their comfort zone, they grew and became better students.

What is student-centered?

Student learning and progress must be monitored at the end of every session. Teachers and students should understand the learning goal for each session. At the end of each session student and teacher should understand if the learning goal has been mastered. Instruction will be adjusted based on the needs of the learner to facilitate mastery of content. Overall, this means making instructional decisions based on what is best for the learning, not what merely what has been done in the past.

What is PBL?

“Project based learning is a teaching method that engages students actively in learning by asking them to investigate an interesting or complex question, problem, or challenge, and then to create something in response.  Projects can vary in length; some may take a week or two, other a month or more. Projects may be done individually, in teams or by a whole class,” (Buck Institute, 2016).

What are soft skills?

At JFHS the soft skills we focus on are critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and self regulation.

How have teachers been trained?

All teachers participate in training to maintain their status as professionals.In addition to that we have been working with all of our teachers for the past several years to encourage them and to teach them how to better meet student needs. Teachers have train in Google Apps for Education, flipped classroom, PBL, Personalized Learning, data analysis, curriculum development, and lesson plan creation.

In 2016 the Virginia Department of Education awarded Jefferson Forest the High School Program Innovation Planning grant for $50,000. The following year we were awarded the

High School Program Innovation Implementation Grant for an additional $50,000. These grants allowed us to provide considerable additional training and training opportunities for our staff, including the following:

Conferences Attended by teachers and Administration:

Mass Customized Learning  Mid-Atlantic Consortium (Fall Summit 2016)

Mass Customized Learning  Mid-Atlantic Consortium (Spring Summit 2016)

Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning Feb 2017

iNacol Conference 2016

iNacol Conference  2017

Student Centered Coaching by Diane Sweeney

VASCD 2016 Annual Conference

VASCD 2017 Annual Conference (Attended and Presented)

Upgrade Your Curriculum by Janet Hale (Fall 2016)

SURN -School University Research Network  The College of William and Mary (Attended and Presented)

VSBA - Virginia School Board Association (Attended and Presented)

2017 Virginia Education Summit - Richmond VA (Participant)

Schewel Lecture through Lynchburg College 2016 George Couros

Full Day Training with George Couros

Schewel Lecture through Lynchburg College 2017 Kevin Brookhouser

Full Day Training with Kevin Brookhouser (20time Projects and Coding)

On site training:

Project Based Learning with Ginger Lewman - full day professional development all teachers

PowerSchool Pro (Standards based grading)

SCHedOOL Training with Nathan Hammond

Chromebook Training for 1 to 1 Roll out

Technology Integration Training for 1 to 1 Chromebook Roll out

Project Based Learning Department Trainings (Math, Science, English, Foreign Lang, PE/Related Arts) Full Day Professional Development for Each Department

Innovation Evening with the whole staff (Movie MLTS)

1,050 man hours of teacher training in the summer of 2016 & 2017

(Additional hours have been requested for summer 2018) Buck Institute training All academy teachers received at least 2 days of training summer 2018 Bill Daggett workshop for entire county

Book Studies:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

Innovator’s Mindset” Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros

Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning by Chuck Schwahn & Bea McGarvey

Currently involved with teacher choice book study in support of the CSIP plan for JFHS



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